We must not exaggerate the dangers of cycling

Jeremy Vine's article only reinforced a sense of conflict, and didn't include safety facts

Share
Related Topics

I hesitate to wade into a debate about cycling because few debates have the potential to be as tiresome or polluted with counter-productive hot air, but I think it’s worth responding to Jeremy Vine’s article today in the Daily Mail.

First, we should note that writers don’t write headlines or have a say about the layout of a page in print. Our words can also be edited.

The headline on page 15 of the Mail today: Why do so many drivers want to KILL ME! (“KILL ME” is produced in a huge typeface).

Below this, Vine writes about cycling in London over the past two years, recently while wearing a helmet-cam to record incidents or near misses. Judging by his words, it’s a wonder he’s still alive and in possession of four limbs.

For example: 

-“Every morning when I leave the house, my wife says farewell in the manner of Japanese women who waved off pilot husbands in World War II.

-“If nothing else, cycling in a major British city reminds you to make a will and tell your mum you love her.

-“In the morning, I dress like a U.S. Navy Seal on his way to shoot Bin Laden. I am kitted out like a soldier and sometimes behave like one because London’s roads are a battlefield and my life is at stake.

-“I feel like I have become involved in a war that puts my life at risk every time I strap on my helmet.”

Putting to one side the mixed military metaphor, and the temptation of any writer to exaggerate, I wonder what Vine wanted to achieve here. I think that a prominent cyclist with recourse to a full page in a national newspaper ought to set out to make cycling safer and more pleasant. Perhaps Vine hopes to do this by shocking all road users. Instead, I fear, he only reinforces an exaggerated sense of conflict and danger.

Vine could have included a few safety stats, which reveal how safe cycling is. When I suggested this to him on Twitter this morning, he replied: “There is only one safety stat: in two years cycling I have been in one collision, emerged unhurt.” Why not include that in the article?

This isn’t a huge deal and we shouldn’t be surprised that newspapers like publishing controversial articles. But that’s the problem, because little things like this reinforce misleading impressions about roads. In more than six years of very regular cycling in and out of London, I have never been hit by a vehicle nor suffered any injury more serious than a strained shoulder.  I can count the number of genuine near misses I’ve experienced in that time on one hand. I think I’ve had more as a pedestrian.

This isn’t to tempt fate or big myself up, or to question Vine’s experience or right to write about it, but I do think that to paint the picture he has today without the required balance risks fuelling conflict, making the roads less safe for himself and everyone else. Worst, perhaps, he risks putting off any would-be cyclist who might read his words about the horror of it all. Which would be a shame. 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower